Hillary Clinton gives concession speech to staff, supporters, media

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NEW YORK -- Hillary Clinton on Wednesday delivered the most painful and potentially final, big speech of her political career on Wednesday after her stunning defeat to Donald Trump in the presidential race.

Clinton, who had hoped to wake up as the first female president-elect, instead stood before traumatized campaign workers and supporters in New York to deliver her first public reaction to a loss that has sent shockwaves around the world.

"I still believe in America and I always will. And if you do, then we must accept this result and then look to the future," said Clinton, at times choking back emotion. "Donald Trump is going to be our president. We owe him an open mind and the chance to lead."

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Her speech marked a bitter conclusion to a campaign that promised history but instead will be remembered for failing to fully energize Democratic voters and for squandering the party's traditional heartlands in states like Pennsylvania and Wisconsin.

It also marked the final act on the national stage of the Clinton double act, the political partnership between former President Bill Clinton and the former first lady and secretary of state that had seemed poised for a remarkable comeback, 16 years after they left the White House.

Campaign staffers had spoken throughout Clinton's presidential bid of the extreme pressure many of them felt in facing Trump, whom Clinton argued was temperamentally and intellectually unfit for the presidency and to be in charge of the US nuclear arsenal.

Now she is under pressure to call on a nation, split almost exactly down the middle, to unite behind the next president.

It will not be the first time Clinton has tasted the pain of ending a defeated presidential campaign. In 2008, she folded her primary bid against Barack Obama in Washington and bemoaned her failure to break the "highest and hardest glass ceiling" by becoming the first female president. That was to be her fate again in 2016, though the personal recriminations are likely to be even more intense this time given that Trump is seen by many Democrats as antithetical to American values.

Robby Mook, Clinton's campaign manager, emailed all campaign staffers Wednesday morning inviting them to join Clinton at the speech, campaign aides said.

The remarks were billed as the former Democratic nominee's goodbye to staff and as a way for her to lay out a way forward for Democrats and the country.

Dozens of Clinton staffers were waiting to get into the event an hour before the start. Many were hugging and some were crying.

"I'm still in shock," said one aide.

Clinton called Trump in the early hours of Wednesday to concede defeat after he shattered her Democratic firewall in the Midwest and swept to victory after the most vitriolic general election in generations.

But she did not appear at her election night party in New York. At the time, her campaign chairman John Podesta explained that the campaign wanted to ensure that every vote in still undeclared states was counted -- though her position already seemed hopeless.

Much of the seating at Clinton's remarks was for staff and aides and the campaign was treating it as a farewell to the people who have spent the better part of two years working on her behalf, an aide said.

Democratic vice presidential nominee Tim Kaine also was on hand, a campaign aide said. The Virginia senator was not with Clinton Tuesday night.

Trump's campaign manager, Kellyanne Conway, said Wednesday that she was with Trump when Clinton's close aide, Huma Abedin, called to say her boss wanted to talk to the president-elect.

"I handed him the phone and they had a maybe one-minute conversation, very gracious, very warm. I heard Mr. Trump's side of it," Conway told CNN's Alisyn Camerota on "New Day. "He commended her for being smart and tough and running a very hard-fought campaign. And I am told Secretary Clinton congratulated Donald Trump on his victory, and conceded to him," Conway said.

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Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:24 am

Clinton campaign staff has entered the room.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:34 am

Top Clinton aide Huma Abedin has come into the room now.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:34 am

Tim Kaine and his wife are taking the stage.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:35 am

Kaine: it has been such an honor to work with Hillary Clinton. 

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:36 am

Kaine: I am proud of her because she has vast dreams…was inspired at a young age to help other. She would have made history as president.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:37 am

Kaine: She had such a wonderful team. The team that she has assembled are so deeply loyal to her and she is loyal to them as well.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:38 am

Kaine: No one has to wonder about if she would accept the outcome of an election. She knows our country and our system and accepts that she’s been in battles before that didn’t go her way and has accepted that.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:39 am

Kaine: I want to thank her for asking Ann and I to join this wild ride. 

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:40 am

Kaine: Hillary and I know well the words of William Faulkner…they killed us but they ain’t whooped us yet…

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:41 am

Hillary Clinton, her husband, daughter and son-in-law are on the stage.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:42 am

Clinton: Last night I congratulated Donald Trump and offered to work with him for our country.  I hope he will be a successful president. I am sorry that we didn’t win this election because of the values we share for our country.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:43 am

Clinton: You represent the best of America and being your candidate has been one of the greatest honors of my life. This is painful and it will be for a long time. 

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:44 am

Clinton: Our campaign was never about one person. It was about building an inclusive America. I believe in America and I always will. 

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:45 am

Clinton: Let me add that our constitutional democracy demands our participation all the time. Let’s do all we can to keep advancing the causes we hold dear.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:46 am

Clinton: Our responsibility is to keep doing our part to build a better, stronger, America. I am so grateful to stand with all of you. I want to thank Tim Kaine and Ann. It has been a joy getting to know them.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:47 am

To the  Obamas, our country owes you an enormous debt.We thank you for your graceful determined leadership that has meant so much to people across the world.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:48 am

To Bill and Chelsea and Mark….my love for you is more than I can express. I will always be grateful to the creative talented men and women at our hq in Brooklyn and across our country.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:49 am

Clinton: To the  millions of volunteers who knocked on doors and posted on FB I want your voices to be heard going forward.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:50 am

Clinton: I have spent my life fighting for what I believe in. To the young people on this campaign…never stop believing that fighting for what’s right is worth it. 

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:51 am

Clinton: to the young women…nothing has made me prouder than to be your champion. I know we have still not shattered that highest glass ceiling. But someday someone will and hopefully sooner than we think.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:52 am

Clinton: to all the little girls watching, you are powerful enough to pursue your own dreams.

I am so grateful for our country and all it has given to me. I count my blessings every single day that I am an American. I believe that if we stand and work together our best days are still ahead of us.

Ann Domeck November 9, 201611:53 am

Clinton: I am incredibly honored and grateful to have had this chance to represent all of you. May God bless you and may God bless the United States of America.